The addition of Molly Suess to the starting lineup continues to pay dividends for the Triad Knights.
The freshman scored the match’s first goal and assisted on the only other one, helping lead the Knights to a 2-0 win over Belleville West on Thursday.
“Having Molly out there really has made a difference,” said Triad coach Matt Bettlach, whose team improved to 12-4-2 and has won five of its last seven matches. “She had been giving us good minutes off the bench all season and we felt she deserved an opportunity.
“She just battles all game long and that seems to lift the entire team.”
Never miss a local story.
The loss was the fifth in seven matches for the Lancers, who had trouble mustering much offense, especially for the opening 50 minutes during which they fell behind 2-0.
West (9-8-2) managed just six shots, only four of which seemed to have a real chance of being converted.
“They nullified us for sure in the first half,” said West coach Jason Mathenia. “We made some adjustments in the second half and gave them more of a challenge, got some shots on goal. Taylor (Mathenia) had one their keeper made a good save on. If that goes in, because they scored right after that to make it 2-0, maybe it’s a different game. They defended well tonight.”
Suess failed to cash in when given the match’s first opportunity to put the ball in the net about 17 minutes in, knocking a shot high off the right side of the cross bar.
But offered a second chance about 17 minutes later, the freshman fought through a defender and beat West goalkeeper Bailey Reeden with a straight-on shot from about 45 yards out.
”Jody Ellis made a fantastic run with the ball all the way to the 18,” said Suess, of what would be her sixth goal of the season, “and I just happened to be at the right place and she crossed it over.
“I just did my job to repay her hard work.”
A little over 11 minutes into the second half, Suess outfought a West player for a ball deep in the Maroons’ end of the field. She then made a pass toward Sam Bassler in the penalty area, where Bassler got enough of the ball that it barely trickled across the goal line.
“If Molly doesn’t win two different 50/50 balls, that goal does not happen,” said Bettlach. “She stepped up and made a great ball to Sam, who just worked her butt off to get past the defender. And she put it in, barely.”
From there, Triad sealed its victory with a defense that was strong all game.
West had possession on the Knights’ end of the field much of the final 15 minutes, but were often unable to put anything together, let alone get a quality shot on goal.
Bettlach especially credited the performance of senior Makayla Hewitt, who played a big role in limiting West’s Taylor Mathenia to just two shots in the match.
The Maroons’ top player, Mathenia came into the match with 12 goals for the season, including a hat trick in a 3-0 rout of O’Fallon earlier this week.
Mathenia’s best opportunity to score came about nine minutes into the second half, when she had a shot to the right side of the goal stopped by Triad goalkeeper Skye Clark.
A little more than a minute later, Bassler scored to make it 2-0.
“Makayla’s job tonight was to keep track of Taylor, and she did a great job,” Bettlach said. “She (Mathenia) still had some chances and was able to create some shots.
“But Makayla did just enough to keep her in check and that’s exactly what we needed.”